By Tracy Quek In Gelang Patah (johor)
The Straits Times
DAP veteran beats Johor Menteri Besar Abdul Ghani by 14,000 votes
Published on May 06, 2013
VETERAN opposition leader Lim Kit Siang beat outgoing Johor Menteri Besar Abdul Ghani Othman by a huge margin of more than 14,000 votes in the hotly contested Gelang Patah parliamentary seat.
It was as much a symbolic victory for the Democratic Action Party (DAP) in the Umno-led Barisan Nasional’s stronghold as it was a personal one for 72-year- old Mr Lim. He announced he would quit his nearly five-decade political career if he lost here.
“Now that I have been given a new lease of life, it is a heavy responsibility,” he said last night, adding that he was awed by the winning margin.
“But what we have pledged is that we offer the people of Malaysia hope for the future, a new vision, a Malaysian dream where all are united in a common objective to create a better, more just, democratic, prosperous and progressive Malaysia,” he added.
For Datuk Ghani, 66, the outcome marks the likely end of his storied 18-year career as Menteri Besar, during which he oversaw the development of the Iskandar region, a major dynamo of growth for southern Johor.
Mr Lim won 54,284 votes to Mr Ghani’s 39,522.
The constituency has 106,864 voters, 52 per cent of whom are Chinese; 34 per cent, Malay; and 12.5 per cent, Indian.
Gelang Patah was one of the election’s most closely watched contests as the two political heavyweights had moved from their safe seats to set up what was seen as a proxy battle for Malaysia.
Mr Lim left his Ipoh Timur constituency in Perak to contest here as part of the DAP’s strategy to leverage on the dissatisfaction of Chinese and urban voters, and trigger “a political tsunami” in the BN stronghold.
Last week, Prime Minister Najib Razak weighed in on the battle, saying it carried far deeper significance for Johor and the “Johor way” of all races working together for shared prosperity.
Last night, at the opposition’s media centre in Skudai, Dr Boo Cheng Hau, Johor DAP state chairman and candidate for the Skudai state seat, told supporters that the DAP had won the Gelang Patah seat but urged them to tell friends and family to stay off the streets and avoid trouble.
At a vote-counting centre less than 2km away, crowds swelled and the riot police were called in to head off a potential confrontation between the police and opposition supporters.
Speaking to The Straits Times about Mr Lim’s victory, Dr Boo said his win showed that “the party was accessible to all races, including Malay support”. He added that the party was confident from the start that Mr Lim would win.
One of the first tasks for the DAP in Gelang Patah, Dr Boo said, would be to solicit views and ideas from residents about the future development of the Iskandar region, which lies within Gelang Patah constituency. The region has attracted heavy investment from Singapore.
Earlier in the day, long lines formed at polling stations throughout Gelang Patah, with voters having to wait more than an hour to cast their votes. First-time voter and Gelang Patah resident Chua Yong Chen, 25, said he was happy Mr Lim won. “Since the DAP is new here, everyone should be careful about ties between the different races. We should all work to strengthen them.”